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Playground Physics

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30 MINUTES TO AN HOUR

TO COMPLETE

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WHAT WILL YOU MAKE?

We are going to observe the forces created by playground equipment that makes them so much fun.
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WHAT WILL YOU NEED?

STEP 1

Build the Holster

You’ll want to keep the phone held in place to get accurate measurements — you can use a smartphone sporting band, or just put the phone inside a plastic bag and tape it to your body with masking tape. We chose to make a case for the phone out of felt, cutting and folding it into an envelope that holds the phone, and affixing felt straps that let you tie it to your body.

STEP 2

Secure the Phone

Attach the phone to your body where it won’t be moving as part of the motion of interacting with the playground equipment — such as on the thigh for swings, or the back for slides.

Make sure the case with the phone is positioned so that the phone can be easily removed and reinserted.

 

STEP 3

Swing into Action

Create a new experiment called Swings and then start a new capture with the Y accelerometer. Sit still for 10 to 15 seconds to give a baseline after putting the phone in the holder. Now swing away.

Looking at the graph we can easily see the time when we are pumping the swing to try to go higher, then we begin to coast for a period, followed by slowing down to come to a stop. Since acceleration is a measurement of the change of speed, the point where we are working to pick up speed shows as the most active.

STEP 4

Slide Down

Let’s try the slide next. Our park had a slide with bumps in it. As we slide down, the bumps can be seen on the graph as valleys in our readings. Notice how they get closer and closer together as we are speeding up and it takes less time to get to the next one.

WHAT'S NEXT?

Playgrounds are full of interesting experiments. How does the graph for a straight slide look compared with a bumped or corkscrew slide? What does the acceleration look like on a merry-go-round as a friend pushes you faster and faster? What happens as you cross the monkey bars? The speed of many of these activities are what make them fun, acceleration allows us to measure that!

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Please Note

Your safety is your own responsibility, including proper use of equipment and safety gear, and determining whether you have adequate skill and experience. Power tools, electricity, and other resources used for these projects are dangerous, unless used properly and with adequate precautions, including safety gear and adult supervision. Some illustrative photos do not depict safety precautions or equipment, in order to show the project steps more clearly. Use of the instructions and suggestions found in Maker Camp is at your own risk. Maker Media, Inc., disclaims all responsibility for any resulting damage, injury, or expense.

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